Business Plan For Startups: The No-Bull Complete Guide [2019]

You've got a great idea and you're thinking about launching your startup. That's awesome, but you first need to put your thoughts on paper. A business plan will help you structure and organize your ideas and will guide you on the next steps towards success.

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How many articles and videos have you already check out about how to write a business plan? I’m guessing you’ve spent some time, and you’re here now because you want something comprehensive and straight forward.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to push any story about how amazing I am and why you should buy my step by step business plan. The following video will take you step by step through creating a business plan and planning the marketing. After that, we will give you our version with all the details and plenty of resources to get you well on your way.

Business plans can be anything from a few pages to a small book; it’s important to understand your own situation so you don’t get overwhelmed and try to do more than you need or not take it seriously and miss out on crucial funding.

We’ll show you step by step and an overview of what a business looks like so you can get the general layout as well as fully understand each component.

We will start with a definition, then a brief overview, followed by a template explaining all of the components, and end with the executive summary marketing plan.

Feel free to skip to whichever part you really need.

Definition: A business plan is a document, which describes all the key aspects of the future enterprise or project, analyzes all the problems the enterprise can face and defines methods of solution for the identified issue.

Business Plan Definition

In simpler words, it is a plan for your goals and how you are going to achieve them. For investors’ sake, it might include possible obstacles and how you would overcome them.

Overview: A properly composed business plan is a clear response to the questions: “Is it worth it to invest money in this business,” and “will it bring revenue that will more than reimburse the invested capital and time?”

A business plan should always be short and concise. However, it can be content rich when focused on a solution to a particular problem. Business plans are recommended to have about 30 to 70 pages tops. Any additional materials and resources should be put in the appendix.

How to Write a Business Plan

Sections of a Business Plan

A formal business plan should contain the following three sections:

  1. Annotation: No more than 1 page. It is a written request for top management.
  2. Resume: 1 to 3 pages. It is basic information for guidance through a business plan.
  3. Business plan: 30 to 60 pages. It is a detailed project study by investors and experts.

Formal business plans are very important for startups who are looking for investors with big time money. If you are planning to bootstrap and you are already working on your startup, you might not need anything this elaborate.

It is still important to put together a business plan even if you aren’t planning on pitching it to investors. Your business plan will be the vision of your company. It will be the rudder of your ship to keep you straight on course.

When it comes to gaining support for your business plan, the experience of the founders matter. If you don’t have any experience, your business plan is the first thing and possibly the only thing investors are going to see.

IMPORTANT! Take the writing of your business plan and the proposal very seriously. You might be the smartest person with the greatest idea; however, when investors see your business plan they won’t see you. They only see your writing. Get it right, or you won’t get the meeting.

Keep in mind the reason for putting together your business plan. Yes, it is to help understand the vision of the company, but it is also to help investors and banks feel secure about investing in you.

A well put together plan by an experienced entrepreneur should have tons of data. It should have data from any relevant or related labs, technicians, as well as from existing markets.

Unfortunately, and often enough, young entrepreneurs come into the market without extensive plans and studies. They often do not have experience in management or a clear image of problems lurking in the market.

The young entrepreneurial mindset works like a double-edged sword. On one side, they lack the actual experience of running a business, and on the other, they have the hope and expectation of success that failure has not stunted.

As a young entrepreneur, you should always be learning, reading related and unrelated non-fiction, and seeking guidance from mentors and advisors. Check out one of our related articles for more on Startup Advisors.  

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12 Elements of a Standard Business Plan Template:

  1. A Top page includes the name, details of the company, its owners, as well as what the project is about at its core. Try to distill the idea down to its essence. Think of fractions and the most reduced form.
  1. The Project summary is a concise statement of your goal and the methods you plan to achieve it. This is your elevator pitch. Be clear and concise with plain words that even those outside your industry will understand.
  1. A Description of a company-author provides basic information about the author of the project.
  1. The Description of item (services) contains facts about the product for development such as characteristics, features, consumers, licenses, possible analogs. What are you trying to sell the investors on?
  1. Market analysis pertains to the data about products, which are already on the market. It is the most significant step in drawing up a plan because it is going to justify the questions “will this really work? if so, how much will it cost?”
  1. The Push or pull strategy is where you show, with data, why your target market is better to push your product towards consumers or pull/motivate customers to seek out you.
  1. Production is simply direct information on the technology needed to implement the proposed plan. It will also include data on the necessary volumes of raw materials, possible suppliers, price levels, and the cost of repairs.
  1. A Human resources plan provides information and calculations on costs for the staff needed to implement the idea as well as their level of qualification.
  1. The Organization plan and management offers a scheme of the planned organizational structure --  the business’s positions with duties, expertise, education, and qualifications. Human resources focus on quantity, types of positions, and cost, while this section focuses on what “quality” of “human resources” would fulfill which positions.
  1. The Financial plan contains data about necessary financial resources for making the proposed plan as well as data on estimated profits.
  1. Risk analysis is a description of all possible risks and recommendations for minimizing them.
  1. The final part, Applications represent the documents based on which the plan was made. This could include market research, catalogs, price lists, and characteristics of competitors.
Customer Buying Cycle Alignment

Executive Summary Marketing Plan

If you’ve never heard of an executive summary marketing plan, don’t worry. It’s not “everyday business speak” because it only comes around at the pitch of a new business idea. And, assuming this is your first startup, you might not have needed to defend your wonderful idea or how you’re going to get people to buy it.

An executive summary of a marketing plan is a brief overview of how a business plans to persuade people to buy its product or service. When writing the executive summary, keep in mind that people of high authority are going to be reading it, so keep it short and highlight the most important factors.

The next video will walk you through the steps on how to create this special summary as well as give you a few tips.

The marketing plan itself will be much more extensive and comprehensive than the executive summary.

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Ingredients of a Marketing Plan

The important ingredients of a marketing plan are:

  • Opportunity
  • Execution
  • Team and company
  • Sales analysis
  • Competitive ability analysis
  • Client friendly (needs, preferences, opportunities, behavior, and so on)
  • Tactics and strategy (cover all the key marketing components that will be used: product, packaging, price, distribution, advertising, sales promotion, sales method, etc.)
  • Rational actions (increase in production capacity)
  • Anticipation survey of potential gain and possible loss, balances, a flow of funds and so on
  • Money in hand, necessary for the implementation of a plan
  • Research on customer behavior (in-depth research, volumetric market simulations, concept checking, test results, etc.)
  • Risks and force-majeure circumstances

In order for any marketing plan to work, it must be focused around a specific goal.

Marketing goals can be to: raise brand awareness, promote brand loyalty, increase product and services awareness, introduce new products and services, increase market share.

For more on marketing goals with examples, check out this quick read HERE.

At the end of your plan, be sure to include an appendix. An appendix is the final piece of a business plan where you can place images of required products along their extensive details.

There is no shortage of how-to manuals and books to help create a strong business plan. Some of my favorites are "The E-Myth Revisited" by Michael E. Gerber, Agile: Estimating and Planning" by Mike Cohn, "Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies" by Rhonda Abrams, and "Crowdfunding" by Jason Rich.

For a visual, check out this free sample business plan. There are plenty of samples, and they are available and easy to access. Don’t be lazy, find one you like, create your own, stay on top of it, and it will take you more than just one step closer to success.

Business Plan vs. Strategic Plan

Extra Goodies

Mission and Vision statements are also very important. Not everyone will know your business plan, but your mission and vision statements will reach farther and be seen by more people.

A Mission Statement is the organization’s unique selling proposition combined with the most important measure of success. The Vision Statement is the organization’s people-centered values plus overall goals. How do you see your effect on the world?

Some examples are:

1. “To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.” – Southwest Air

2. “Our vision is to create a better every-day life for many people.” – IKEA

3. “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. (*If you have a body, you are an athlete.)” – Nike

Click here for a step by step process to create your own.

What if you don’t want your business plan to be some huge and crazy document?

Nora Conrad has a great Mini Business plan and more. She will guide you with a few starting questions like why start this business, where are you going, and who is your ideal customer?

After you finish creating your business plan, you might want to put together a PowerPoint for your presentation. Check here for tons of free (and paid) templates in all areas such as marketing, startups, education, food, and more. You can browse by subject and even style.

There is a lot of software out there to create business plans. StartPad is great because it has what you need to create your plan as well as plenty of resources like videos, blogs, and even workshops and coaches. Enloop is a great software that enables collaboration with one other user, pdf download ability, and scores your end result. If you pay, it will even show your final scoring plan to bankers and investors. LivePlan is another software service that takes you step by step through the whole process. It comes complete with templates and examples; however, Liveplan is not free.

Bplans has +500 Software as a Service business plans here, but I would also recommend there 101 page if you are just starting out.

Conclusion

There are many types of business plans. A well-written business plan is essential for the birth and growth of any organization. Your audience will determine what is the most important focus for this document.

If you already have a running business, you’re not going to focus on the same things as a business looking for investors. Nevertheless, you should review your business plan and market summary at least every year to make sure you are on track or whether you need to make some adjustments.


About the author: Melisa Marzett is a sophisticated columnist who is currently writing for GetEssayEditor enjoys life because it is beautiful and lives each day as if it was last. She has the ability to notice things nobody notices, which is why she likes to observe and wrap her observations in words on paper.

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